The Vision Thing and the Tinfoil Hat (post 2 of 3 on Young Earth Creationism)

November 3, 2014


Young Earth Creationists believe in the literal truth of The Bible and its account of a six-day creation. They suppose the entire universe is only around six thousand years old and that all ‘kinds’ were created by God as described in Genesis.

In the first of these three posts, I explained how Young Earth Creationists get their theory that the universe is only around six thousand years old to ‘fit’ the evidence.

Any theory, no matter how ludicrous, can be made consistent with the evidence, given sufficient patience and ingenuity. In the previous post we saw that even Dave, who believes dogs are super-intelligent Venusian spies planning an imminent invasion of the Earth, can achieve that sort of ‘fit’. That’s obviously not to say that Dave’s bizarre theory about dogs is confirmed.

Endlessly explain away, Dave-style, all evidence against your theory, so that nothing is ever allowed to count against it, and something odd may begin to happen to you. You may achieve what I call The Vision Thing.

The more habitual becomes the strategy of forcing the evidence to ‘fit’ your theory, the more the world may seem endlessly to confirm it. You may think: ‘Why, absolutely everything seems to fit! Absolutely everything seems to ‘makes sense’ on my theory!’ Indeed, the truth of your theory may now begin to strike you as obvious to anyone with eyes to see. So why can’t others see what you can see? Are they blind?

The philosopher of science Karl Popper thought that followers of Marx’s theory of history and Freud’s and Adler’s theories of the unconscious all succumbed to this thought. On Popper’s view, all three theories suffer the same fundamental defect of being unfalsifiable – no matter what was observed, followers of these theories found they could always find a way to make their theory ‘fit’.

On Popper’s view, the unfalsifiability of such theories – the way they always turn out to ‘fit’ whatever happens to be observed – means they are mere pseudoscience. But of course, the followers of such theories come to a very different conclusion: that their theories are endlessly being confirmed. Popper writes:

I found that those of my friends who were admirers of Marx, Freud, and Adler, were impressed by a number of points common to these theories, and especially by their apparent explanatory power. These theories appear to be able to explain practically everything that happened within the fields to which they referred. The study of any of them seemed to have the effect of an intellectual conversion or revelation, open your eyes to a new truth hidden from those not yet initiated. Once your eyes were thus opened you saw confirmed instances everywhere: the world was full of verifications of the theory. Whatever happened always confirmed it. Thus its truth appeared manifest; and unbelievers were clearly people who did not want to see the manifest truth; who refuse to see it, either because it was against their class interest, or because of their repressions which were still ‘un-analyzed’ and crying aloud for treatment. Source.

Young Earth Creationist Ken Ham is similarly struck by the question: Given the manifest truth of Young Earth  Creationism, why can’t the atheists and evolutionists see that it’s true? Because, says Ham, they don’t want to:

Why can’t the humanists, the evolutionists, see that all the evidence supports exactly what the Bible says? It is because they do not want to see it. It is not because the evidence is not there. They refuse to allow the evidence to be correctly interpreted in the light of biblical teaching. Source.

Clearly, Ken Ham has achieved The Vision Thing. Other Christians, puzzled by the fact that the atheists can’t see what they can so clearly see, may invoke, not wishful thinking, but the activities of tricksy devils (C.S. Lewis), or perhaps a sin-corrupted divinity sense, to account for the blindness of the unbelievers to manifest divine truth.

I don’t sign up to Popper’s falsificationism, but I do think he’s right about the psychological effect of endlessly explaining away all evidence against a theory. Those who adopt this strategy often do end up puzzled by the fact that others can’t see what they see. And so they begin to concoct explanations for the baffling blindness of others.

No doubt Dave wonders why his friends can’t see what he so clearly sees: that the invasion by Venusian dogs is imminent. Why can’t they see that it all fits? Why, their minds must somehow have been melded. By them!

At this point, Dave will probably reach for his protective tinfoil hat.

In my third and final post I’ll turn to the question: so when are theories confirmed?